EA to close Dead Space studio Visceral, in-development Star Wars game moving to Vancouver

visceralstarwars

EA have just announced that they’ll be “ramping down and closing” Visceral, the studio behind the Dead Space trilogy. Visceral have been working on an untitled Star Wars project, described as an “action-adventure”, and Amy Hennig, formerly of Naughty Dog and Crystal Dynamics, moved to the studio in 2014 to work on that project as senior creative director. EA’s statement regarding Visceral’s closure suggests that they’re unhappy with the status of that game and they plan to “pivot the design” to fit “fundamental shifts in the marketplace”. Full statement and thoughts below.

Star Wars will be taken out of Visceral’s hands while the studio winds down and will instead move to EA Worldwide Studios, led by a team from EA Vancouver. Here’s the explanation, such as it is:

Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.

Maybe I’m just feeling a bit gloomy about big budget singleplayer games that don’t fit a certain template given the worrying early word around Evil Within 2 sales (physical only, mind), but I hope that I’m translating this corp-speak incorrectly when I see “story-based” and “adventure” as the bad words here. The “broader experience” might well be a way of tackling the apparently “linear” nature of the Visceral game, adding more chances to build characters rather than watch characters, and to explore rather than to follow the signposts. But it might also mean big icon-strewn maps and a complete lack of character.

It’s probably silly to speculate, especially given EA say the 2019 (fiscal year) release date has been abandoned and a new, presumably later, timeframe will be announced soon.

Farewell Visceral’s Star Wars, we barely knew thee. In fact, we knew almost nothing about you. But we did know something about Visceral, a studio that made one of my favourite big budget series. Dead Space 3 might have lost its way, but that wasn’t necessarily the fault of the developers as Eurogamer found out when they spoke to creative director Ben Wanat earlier this year. I’ll always have fond memories of the horrors in the first two games though, and the extraordinary spaceship graveyard in the third.

EA say they’ll be moving as many Visceral staff to new positions within EA and we wish the best to everyone affected.

92 Comments

  1. wcq says:

    Does EA even release anything except Battle(front/field) and various sports games these days?

    • Jalan says:

      Word just came down from BioWare that EA has split them to toiling away on EA Sports UFC 3. No word yet on any Mass Effect: Andromeda character cameos, but hopes remain high.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I was wondering that as well. I want a singleplayer Star Wars game outside the BF (Battlefront or Battlefield, don’t know if there’s much difference) range, but apparently the whole new trilogy of Star Wars movies will pass before we even get a peak at anything like that.

      EA hasn’t made much of its monopoly on Star Wars, just launched 1 Battlefield-alike and are soon to be launching another. Their deal with Disney goes from 2013-2023 and the most optimistic thought I can muster is “2023 isn’t that far off anymore”. Don’t know if things will get better during or after that period, though.

      I like the talk here about “more variety and player agency”, but that’s a cold comfort now that EA has shut down yet another studio. Visceral really didn’t deserve that.

    • Renegade says:

      EA had a brief period of putting out some good original games a few years ago with Mass Effect, Dead Space and Mirrors edge. It had almost seemed like ‘Evil EA’ was gone but the last few years and the sad demise of all three of those franchises showed it was just a blip, now they seem more money hungry than ever.

    • Bull0 says:

      Titan fall 2 last year, which was quite good

      • haradaya says:

        Really good. Growing up with Unreal Tournament ’99 and MechWarrior 3 makes TF2 nearly a perfect game for me.

        • Bull0 says:

          I really liked the campaign, multiplayer is perfectly good too but not really my speed anymore. Not even a criticism with the game itself, I’m just not that fussed about that style of MP anymore.

  2. Paul says:

    Wow, Amy must be really pissed off at this point. Legendary developer, gets ousted from Naughty Dog, gets hired by EA to develop Star Wars Uncharted-like, only to have the work scrapped after 3 years because apparently some moron inside EA decided that linear action games don’t sell, eventhough Uncharted 4 sold millions and this SW game has been hotly anticipated.

    Oh well looking forward to ignoring another lootbox-filled nonsense.

    I hope I am wrong.

    • brucethemoose says:

      For all we know, the development studio could have screwed it up themselves, and EA cut their losses.

      Or it could’ve been some of both. Eg the studio having trouble thanks to some of EA’s influence.

      The truth is somewhere between the 2 extremes, and even though I’m highly cynical, I doubt EA canned a perfect game during development.

      • April March says:

        Agreed. It’s easy to cast blame into the evil publishers, but the studio may well have screwed up. Although it certainly does sound like a case of ‘this game is so creative and different… how will we explain this to our stockholders??? Make it more generic!’

      • wackazoa says:

        Exactly. EA is in the buisness to make money. How do they make any money by spending on development for 3 years then killing a game that will “sell” and shutting down a “promising” studio. What probably happened is that after 3 years the game wasnt where it needed to be to meet the deadlines. Or perhaps it was the dreaded…. not fun. And just like Microsoft with Dragonscale, or even Blizzard with its Overwatch predecessor, EA decided it was time to just do something else.

        This doesnt absolve EA, perhaps they did have something to do with it by meddling in the design or story to fit into the lootbox/openworld/multiplayer trends of today. But the biggest knock against Visceral is that 3 years into development, and roughly 1ish year from release, have we seen anything other than a couple of screenshots or a short video? That to me is the most damning evidence of a game that isnt going how they want.

        Im sorry to hear that Visceral closed though. But the best employees will be moved internally and the others will maybe have time to find jobs elsewhere. At least they annouced it prior to the holidays.

        • gunny1993 says:

          Its nice to be 100% objective sometimes, but let’s look at ea’s track record. If we look at their history (even with just visceral) it seems far more likely they are mostly at fault.

          • wackazoa says:

            Youre right. I cant defend EA. The amount of franchise they have bought up and for some reason the franchises change how they play, the amount of studios they have bought up and then closed, what they did with Titanfall 2 last year…. I don’t have anything to defend them with.

            Its just strange to me that we saw nothing from Visceral for 3 years and yet people are convinced that EA has shut down potentially “the greatest star wars game evah!”. Im sure that EA was probably wanting some type of multiplayer/loot box content included. Hell Uncharted had multiplayer! But Im also betting that the game was having development problems that weren’t gonna be easy to fix. Im sure we will hear something on the behind the scenes in a couple of years to confirm this.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Nah, having been on the receiving end of a few cancellations, in my experience games get cancelled well into production for asinine reasons like this all the time. Sometimes development is not in good shape and they cut their losses, but usually the project is doing fine and suddenly some exec you’ve never met decides that they need to “re-align their portfolio”.

      • neilervin says:

        I don’t know. If Warner Bros have taught me anything, it’s that bigwigs like EA corporates will scrap just about anything or poorly alter it because it’s not mainstream enough. I feel like this Star Wars game was Different, which we need. Alas, who knows. I’m not as much of a cynic!

    • dontnormally says:

      > “pivot the design” to fit “fundamental shifts in the marketplace”

      Yeah, EA demanded they add loot boxes, they said it’s way too late in the project to purposefully gimp an aspect of the game to inject a dopamine dripper.

      Fuck EA and fuck what they’re doing to Star Wars games specifically.

  3. Hartford688 says:

    Story based, linear – the “bad” words – versus the “good” words of “broader experience”, “variety” and “leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine” sounds something like comparing Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Inquisition.

    Oh dear.

    • Kurokawa says:

      Sounds like letting Mass Effect starve on a small budget and inexperienced team while funneling the big talent and big bucks into a massively multiplayer microtransaction Destiny clone…

  4. GrumpyCatFace says:

    Insane optimist viewpoint: Replacement for Star Wars Galaxies?

    Realist viewpoint: More garbage from megacorp board meetings, ignore and move along.

  5. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Translation: we need people to be playing the game and buying loot crates forever, not just for the duration of a single player campaign (or, god forbid, not buying loot crates at all!).

  6. Zenicetus says:

    “Broader experience” = conversion to multiplayer-focused shooter, with maybe a brief singleplayer story on the side, amirite?

    • April March says:

      Don’t they already have a multiplayer-focused SW shooter? I don’t think even EA would shoot themselves in the foot this hard… but I’ve been surprised in the past.

    • welverin says:

      My thoughts went towards open world, since that’s the popular thing now a days.

      • Comco says:

        My thoughts exactly – Open world supports “a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency
        , and gives players a “greater depth and breadth to explore”. They also mention replayability.

        • Sandepande says:

          My only hope is that they’ll put in something interesting to do in that broader, deeper Star Wars exploration experience.

          More likely I’ll be shootin’ stormtroopers from radio towers (or, if lucky, there’ll be AT-ATs disguised as radio towers or vice versa).

  7. MisterFurious says:

    EA shut down a studio!?!?! Is it Tuesday already?!

    • geldonyetich says:

      Seriously, they claimed they turned over a new leaf, but the number one thing I hate about EA is when they buy studios full of top notch talent, grind the talent into paste, and liquidate the husk of the former studio.

      Somewhere, there’s a panel of EA execs who look at the numbers and reassure themselves every moment of every day that taking talented people and crushing their souls is a necessary part of big business.

      Speaking as the end user, however, these practices would see to be an antithesis of good products. How many fantastic games would Origin have made if they didn’t make things unbearable for makers of Ultima and Wing Commander? Which is worse, the fate of Bullfrog or the fate of Maxis? It’s all just big business, baby.

      If your game company gets bought out by a huge, public traded behemoth, just quit. Leave. Go start your own studio. Get kickstarted. Get a day job if you have to. But understand this: you’re making art, and big money is thoroughly incompatible with that. The tools are readily available, you don’t need them anymore.

      Easy for me to say, of course. I’m a virtual gaming hermit. I don’t have a family to care for. I don’t want one. So I can sit up here on the top of my ivory tower and cast down edicts on the state of 21st century gaming.

      Seriously, though, I’m thinking we ought to consider going back to guilds when it comes to any artistic ventures. Corporations need not apply.

      • skyturnedred says:

        Visceral was an internal studio, though.

        • geldonyetich says:

          That should defuse the disappointment that they’re running talented people into the ground, since they grew the same studio they shut down.

          But the cynic within muses that, in a way, that’s a sketchy improvement, a split hair. It’s not enough that they’ve a history to buy out external studios and exploit them to death: they have ways to grow their own forms of exploitation right where they are.

          Back off, inner cynic, I don’t really know what the situation is over there. For all I know, it ended amiably for all involved parties.

          Honestly, all I really got going for me is a perspective of a gamer who is sick of clones and feels a bit of resentment at seeing classic studios bought out shortly before they shut down. It’s a skeleton in EA’s closet that comes out once in awhile.

  8. Stone_Crow says:

    “.. in the meantime EA are waiting on word from Lucasfilm on their proposal that lightsabers work on batteries that Jedi buy via micro-transactions…”

  9. Mezelf says:

    Another one bites the dust. At this point EA is literally like a modern fable to warn us of the dangers of greed and making a deal with the devil.

    I know what Jim Sterling’s next video is going to be about…

  10. Bluestormzion says:

    They’re changing the design to fit “Changes in the Marketplace.”

    Translation: “Once again we’re going to shit all over original ideas and creative vision, which has been proven time and again as what gamers actually want, to instead design a game to check all the checkboxes on the “What makes money” checklist. Then we’ll sell a 120 dollar Deluxe version, and also fill it with Microtransactions, and THEN rewrite the plot to fit any and all of the politically correct social issues of today. All said and done, we can’t wait to once again roll out a title that will cost 250 dollars for the complete experience, and that experience will be a pandering piece of crap more concerned with adding in trisexual nongendered aliens made entirely out of tits with dicks on them than with having a coherent plot, riveting gameplay, and characters that make you care about them. Also, our face is tired, goddamn it! WHOM!”

    • April March says:

      Pretty weird to think that adding different genders gets a big tick in the “What Makes Money” list. I’m pretty sure it starts with “White Muscular Protagonist with Short Brown Hair and Stubble”.

    • wackazoa says:

      “which has been proven time and again as what gamers actually want”

      Im gonna have to challenge this statement. Go look and see what the most played games on steam are right now. “Single player linear adventure” is not there. Im sorry, I too enjoy my games typically as single player games, but that is not what “gamers” want if you are refering to the collective.

      “experience will be a pandering piece of crap more concerned with adding in trisexual nongendered aliens made entirely out of tits with dicks on them than with having a coherent plot, riveting gameplay, and characters that make you care about them. ”

      Also this is complete garbage.

      • Frosty Grin says:

        It just shows that people play multiplayer games longer, not that they’re more popular.

        • MattM says:

          I think there is a strong effect here. People who love grind/multi/raids etc. are going to be the majority of your forum members and make up the majority of the game’s total play hours, but they aren’t necessarily the majority of your players or revenue.
          Similarly aiming for the biggest market CoD/LoL/WoW might seem like a smart buisiness move, but plenty of companies have gone broke when they found that the players they wanted to sell to already had CoD/LoL/WoW and didn’t need a clone.

        • wackazoa says:

          And EA’s statement did mention more replay ability. Plunkbat has topped the Steam Charts since it came out. CS Go and GTA are constantly in the charts as well. The others list for a few weeks at most then generally fall off. Also looking at Mondays article Evil Within 2 and possibly Cuphead are the only games that could qualify as single player linear story, and Cuphead has co-op.

  11. left1000 says:

    EA: how will a story driven adventure sell lootboxes and other microtransactions?
    Visceral: We weren’t actually planning to have microtransactions.
    EA: you’re fired!~

  12. cjone2 says:

    The best successes always come from following others… right?

  13. agentgray says:

    EA could of saved us all the trouble of reading the press release. Let me translate for you in one word:

    Microtransactions.

    • JaseyMitch says:

      Indeed, you’re right. It’s hard to hang a microtransaction and lootbox economy onto a single-player 20-hour linear experience. Expect more open worlds and multiplayer focused experiences designed to retain engagement . They’re easier to make because a lot of the ‘content’ is player created ie. let player loose in big open world with friends/AI, rather than written and designed encounters and events as part of a journey through an ever-changing landscape.

  14. Drakhoran says:

    So bye bye to fun single player game and hello to Boba Fett’s Battlegrounds?

  15. benzoate says:

    Just take the desert planet from Mass Effect Andromeda, replace everything with Star Wars certified versions. And put every. single. thing. in loot-crates.

    Weapons – start with your fists, everything else in a crate.
    Vehicle – start with a cart, everything else in a crate.
    Spaceship to get off planet? crate.
    Other planets to get to? crate.
    Story? crate.
    Voice acting? crate.

    Essentially, Evoland, but everything in a crate.

    • Malcolm says:

      I remember playing a shmup on kongregate like that, it started off looking like something from the Atari 2600 era and everything including the sound effects was an “unlock”. It was quite fun for a few minutes.

  16. Turkey says:

    Reminder that it’s been 5 years since they got the license, and all they’ve got to show from it is a deathmatch shooter that was already in production before the announcement that Disney bought Star Wars.

  17. Daymare says:

    I loved the first two Dead Spaces. I even loved many parts of the third one, especially the part in the alien city, because it was like being inside Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, alien architecture and all. I loved the descent into the alien city. The snowy planet. Finding the preserved alien carcass.

    But by the third one you could see EA’s influence.

    Everything afterwards was just … Entropic Arseholes. That’s what EA stands for, I guess.

    A big “Fuck you, you pieces of shit” from me.

    They’re ruining beloved franchises on an annual basis at this point. I really liked the first two Mass Effects as well. Look where that went.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Yeah Dead Space was cool. They should rather have closed down the dudes responsible for Andromeda -before- the release and have Visceral do it. Couldn’t have been worse.
      Just add actual new aliens, remove space orcs aka Kett (sounds like “cat” all the time for puns).

  18. andromedius says:

    EA, killing video games : “It’s in our genes!”

  19. aircool says:

    They probably want to add a ‘nemesis’ aspect to the game.

  20. malkav11 says:

    ” In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game.” You know, the thing they greenlit in the first place, and that millions of people would have bought and played. What a tragedy that would have been.

  21. ancipital says:

    Hey give EA a break- it’s far harder to shoe-horn loot boxes and similar mtx into a linear plot-driven action /adventure game!

    (Maybe Amy Hennig has too much integrity to do that to her games? Wild speculation ahoy.)

  22. Freud says:

    EA Sports Boxing 2018.

    Just loot boxing.

  23. fish99 says:

    Maybe they should fire the EA execs that decided to put microtransactions in Dead Space 3 instead.

  24. tslog says:

    I with for EA’s death, just like so many developers that they’ve killed under their crocodile made boots.

    Let me reiterate – This is who EA has been for decades now. Maybe more or less so over the years – so whomever sells their company to EA is fucking over themselves in a suicide pack, and they’re screwing over their workmates too.
    Imaging selling (screwing ) over your workmates, and IP, by selling to a despicable company like EA. Gross. I’m especially thinking of Bioware heads that sold to EA, fuck them too.

    If an Indie dev out there makes a game called, Dev Killer: EA’s Final Fiscally, I’ll buy 2 million copies.

    • fish99 says:

      “so whomever sells their company to EA is fucking over themselves in a suicide pack”

      I think they know that though. They do it for the money and then plan an early exit to go relax on a beach somewhere. I don’t think anyone sells to EA for the good of their company or employees.

      • GrumpyCatFace says:

        Pretty standard business practice, actually.

        I was working for a tech company that got bought out by Goldman Sachs, a few months after I started. Even from my limited vantage, I could see the devastation unfold over the next 2 years. The original owners retired to the beach, upper management cashed out, and everything changed – culture, pay structure, benefits, conferences – all the things that made that company fun to work for.

        I ended up part of the first wave of departures, once a new opportunity came up. Now, there’s just a shell of a company, drifting, aimless. It’s not exaggeration to say that people now make, on average, about 40% of the salaries that they did in the hey-day. I feel bad for some old friends that are still stuck there, under the corporate thumb.

  25. Ragnar says:

    Sad news indeed, and I hope everyone’s able to find new jobs soon.

    But for single player games, the sadder news is that Dishonored 2 and Prey apparently didn’t sell well – which is disheartening and mind boggling.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s mind-boggling. Many people have ridiculous backlogs, and there’s no pressure to buy single-player games at launch, especially when they have optimization issues, like Dishonored 2.

      • GameCat says:

        Also Dishonored 2 and Outsider standalone expansion are just “more Dishonored 1”.
        I have a few new games to buy that I’ll want to play as fast I can and now it struck me that they all more or less unique.

        There’s Mario Odyssey (already ordered, just waiting for premiere) and A Hat In Time, which both revive 3D platformers, Cuphead with its unique look and Hellblade.

        I want to play Dishonored 2 too, but that can wait a bit, I need to replay first one on my new PC before buying D2.

  26. tomaac says:

    Like there weren’t enough reasons to despise EA. Twats. Just buy out good studios and destroy them.

    That “pivot the design” deal sounds like there were not enough lootboxes in the game for EA’s liking. I hope they implode eventually. Disgusting corporation.

  27. ffordesoon says:

    EAspeak to human talk translation:

    “an experience that players will want to come back to for a long time to come” = we want you grinding for loot boxes forever

    “broader experience” = multiplayer

    “more variety” = grinding, crafting, daily quests, whatever else we can lift from Destiny

    “player agency” = you have a chance to skip the grind if you pay up, because loot boxes

    “leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine” = big empty maps, more guns, possibly an FPS now, because our Frostbite engine is total shit at doing anything that isn’t Battlefield and we know it and refuse to admit it

  28. Herring says:

    “Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore”

    It’s a Star Wars Battle-Royale game.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    One of those days where hating EA is entirely justified. So basically EA management noticed a few singleplayer games sold poorly and a lot of people like endless multiplayer now so they panicked and cancelled what could’ve been a very interesting game from a talented team of developers 3 years into production, destroying a studio in the process. Never mind that people still like singleplayer games just fine and it probably would’ve been a hit if they’d finished it.

    • Sandepande says:

      Yeah, because who cares about Star Wars? That doesn’t mean anything, if it’s tacked on a poorly-selling single-player money-sink.

      It isn’t even far fetched as far as I’m concerned; I skipped Prey and Dishonored 2 precisely because the subject matter and/or setting wasn’t interesting enough.

      Doesn’t exactly explain why I bought Shadow of War, but then I really liked the gameplay in the first one…

      Go figure.

      • ffordesoon says:

        I think you inadvertently (?) hit on why this decision is so stupid: it’s a Star Wars videogame. You could put a turd in a box and make a decent return if the box had the Star Wars logo on it; the brand is that powerful.

        In this case, we’re talking about an Uncharted-style Star Wars game developed by the Dead Space people and a key creative force behind the actual Uncharted games, with all the marketing muscle of the Walt Disney Corporation behind it. The game would have made lots and lots and lots of money based purely on the strength of that pitch.

        It seems lots and lots and lots of money is not enough for EA, however; they want the game to make all of the money forever. That this is impossible clearly does not bother them.

      • fish99 says:

        That’s sad, Dishonoured is one of the best video game settings in recent years, whereas Mordor is just guff, an insult to an excellent license.

  30. stringerdell says:

    Why do they use this horrible bullshit meaningless management speak all the time?

    • syndrome says:

      It’s called “public relationship”.

      The whole world is full of this bullshit all the time, nowadays even mothers and best friends use such language, and while I’m glad you find it odd, I’m shocked you didn’t get used to it by now.

      That’s a rhetorical technique of talking, but staying silent at the same time.

      For example: Did you murder this person?
      I’ve been to some houses lately, but if everybody moves all the time, why is moving a problem? There is nothing odd with moving when alive. And so I moved and now I’m here. Alive. It baffles me why would anyone equate moving with murdering.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      It’s just how they speak. They can’t help it… It’s a chronic affliction known as “business school”.

  31. Rince says:

    Wait a moment… they still sell physical copies of games? What year it is? 2000?

  32. pH101 says:

    Starwars battle royale (with loot boxes?).

  33. Zerpherion says:

    They did the same with other studios, I am not surprised, how can one work with a publisher like EA?

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Well, in addition to cancelling promising games and killing a number of studios they’ve also funded a bunch of cool games. There are only a few publishers capable of fielding the kind of budget required for modern AAA games and EA is one of them. That’s how.

      Really, name any major publisher (EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Activision) and you can make a list of dubious decisions.

  34. Iskariot says:

    So another Star Wars title hits the dust?
    I guess I won’t be playing a Star Wars game any time soon.
    It is so weird. One of the most potent franchises ever conceived and 90% of the games is pure shit.
    They might have created a Star Wars open World game comparable to Fallout or Far Cry with beautiful Star Wars locations, or a space trading/shooting sim, or new X-Wing/Tie-fighter game, or a cool new RPG shooter… but no… of course not…

    • GrumpyCatFace says:

      The people giving these things thumbs-up/down do not care what makes sense, only what makes money. This is why you cannot buy things from megacorp developers. It is always shit. It has always been shit, and it will always be shit.

  35. Danda says:

    This reeks of “we know we asked you to make Star Wars: Uncharted, but now our surveys say people want Star Wars: Lootbox, so… bye!”

    It just sucks. EA can’t be trusted.

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